Retired from the University of Texas and too old to play soccer anymore. Now, in the twilight of his years, time is spent writing in this blog, hiking and exploring Texas Parks, photography, working out, gardening and tending to the five ponds he built .
With the weather as mild as it is here in Texas, it is hard to believe that technically, it is still winter. The outside temperature is at 65 plus degrees and true to form, Mother Nature is hurrying all of her charges along in an attempt to put on a show. Luckily for me, I managed to get ahead of the game and cut down all of the dead and decaying material giving the new growth plenty of room to succeed.
The Knockout Rose is really excelling and has some beautiful blooms and lots of them. Years ago, I planted a bunch of bulbs and some of them, mainly Narcissus, are flowering like crazy. I also discovered several clumps of Violets except they are of the white variety. One plant is in the waterfall on one of the ponds.
I also spotted my resident garden snake that seems to have found a permanent home here. I have watched him (or her) grow from about two feet long to almost four feet long today. He has also increased his size around the girth and is now a very plump specimen. Probably due to his frog and the occasional fish diet. This time, he was sunning on one of the pond plants in the 6000 gallon pond and when he did eventually spot me, all he did was disappear back under the cover of that plant. Below are three more pictures of him.
Since taking these pictures, the weather has got a little cooler with chances of overnight frosts. Hopefully, we will get lucky and if there is a drop in temperature it will not go below freezing. We are almost halfway through February and winter officially ends on March 21 although for us, it will be much sooner than that. It is worthwhile putting up with the summer heat and 100 plus degrees just to not have winter. I hate being cold…
If you have been following my blogs, you will be familiar with the Brown Snake, an addition to my garden last Spring. He has been living close to the ponds sometimes varying which pond that he hangs out. I guess that is something to do with his hunger as two of the ponds contain Koi which are all much larger than he can eat. The other three ponds contain Goldfish which are much smaller fish and one time, I watched him slither out of the middle pond with a six inch goldfish in his mouth. I don’t mind him helping to keep my Goldfish population within reasonable limits as there are way to many of them with new ones hatching what seems like, all of the time.
Anyway, the last blog that contained information about this snake was entitled Texas Winter when I was wandering the garden taking pictures of the few flowers still brave enough to flower and came across the snake sunning himself. Most unusual as I thought that snakes denned up for the winter and semi hibernated. They probably do in places that have much colder winters than my part of Texas does.
A couple of days ago, I discovered where this particular snake has chosen to hang out. Like many Pond Owners, I have aerators on my ponds more to provide oxygen in the summer than this time of the year. The units are housed in small plastic boxes that used to have attached doors to keep the the rain off the pumps but due to the nature of plastic, it deteriorates very quickly when left out in the open and the first thing to go are the doors. So, the snake has discovered a very nice resting place that will also keep him warm when the aerator motors are running which is probably one hour out of every four at this time of the year as I have them on timers. This is a four foot snake curled up inside of this box. Hard to imagine…
I wonder if he knows that his tail is outside of the box? He stayed in the box for a couple of days and now has moved on. I wonder where this time. I will probably come across him in the unlikeliest of places and jump out of my skin at his discovery. Ah, the wonders of Nature.
The Austin Pond Society held their first meeting of the year this past Monday Jan 21, 2019 at the usual place, Zilker Botanical Gardens here in Austin, Texas. This Society has been in existence since 1993 catering to the interests of many of the Pond enthusiasts in the Austin area..
The one position that is still vacant after the recent Board changes is that of Hospitality which is responsible for providing the group with the light meal at the start the meeting. In lieu of this, we settled for pizza from one of our Sponsors, Jet’s Pizza with the membership providing salads and deserts. As usual, the pizza was delicious and although I don’t eat pizza very often, I grabbed two large slices this time around.
I counted 28 members there which included the new Board, a little less than what we hoped for. Some of this was due to our scheduled Speaker, Katie Boyer from the US Fish and Wildlife Services unable to show due to the Government shutdown. In her place, BJ Jenkins, our Programs and Special Events Coordinator put together a contest. This consisted of the logos from the different Pond Tours for the past 16 years each sub titled with the year which in turn had to be linked to specific statements. At the end of the contest, the winners were Glen Hubenthal and Mary Word who had paired up to work together as the contest was designed for pairs.
Thanks to BJ and all of the other people involved for all of their work on gathering together these 16 Logos. Many are from actual tee shirts, 2008 for example.
Having fun at the Logo Contest. The entry screen should read 2019….
Following the contest, there was a short Q&A from members who had a couple of pond questions. Many people had differing views on advice offered to resolve the questions which made for interesting listening. We heard the sad story of a member who left the hose running while topping up his pond resulting in the death of all of his fish due to the chlorine in the water. This sparked off a discussion regarding the varying amounts of chlorine that the City uses especially during times of drought. Unfortunately, almost everyone early in their ponding careers learns this lesson the hard way. I suggested that pond owners should attach a water timer between the faucet and the hose as they are reasonably cheap at Home Depot or Lowes generally costing less than $20.00.
Ted Paone and BJ Jenkins with Andy Filtness
Ted Paone is the Pond Tour Chairman for this years Tour. He graciously offered to perform this duty for a third time having had this role for both the 2016 and 2017 Tours. He outlined the need for additional volunteers on the Pond Tour Committee. The plan is to have 6-7 ponds each day, North and South and he is still looking for ponds to show.
There was no real business other than the urgent need for a Hospitality volunteer. There was a brief discussion of the upcoming meetings and then Madam President, Barb Lenhardt called the meeting to a close.
The Business section of the meeting.
Pictures of the meeting to music
The next meeting will be on Monday February 18 at the usual place and time, Zilker Botanical Gardens at 6:30. The scheduled Speaker is Cindy Cassidy from the Texas Night Sky Festival and her subject will be Night Skies and Light Pollution. Hope to see you there.
Following the successful walk at Reimer’s Ranch a couple of days ago and all enthused because of the cooler weather, I hit the trails again this time heading in the opposite direction to my most favorite park, McKinney Roughs. Reimer’s is in Dripping Springs and McKinney Roughs is almost into Bastrop and the two parks are very different. Reimer’s has the Pedernales River flowing though it and the land is much more open. It used to be a working ranch in its earlier days although Mother Nature is doing a very good job of reclaiming the land for her own. Reimer’s is a Travis County Park. Old guys like me, get in for free which is another bonus.
The video above is made up of Panoramic pictures, sometimes as many as six separate pictures all rolled into one.
McKinney Roughs is an LCRA (Lower Colorado River Authority) Park. This park also has it’s own river, the Colorado River which is every bit as big and sometimes just as frightening at the Pedernales can be. Where Reimer’s is flat and open, McKinney is densely forested and includes some of the famous Bastrop Pine Trees as well as a grand assortment of everything else. The entrance and main buildings are built on the top of a high bluff and then it all slopes down towards the river. When you are walking McKinney, it seems like all of the trails are uphill. LCRA has developed this park to be a location for summer camps and conferences and the buildings are set up as dormitories and meeting rooms. It really is a wonderful and idyllic location to get away from it all. Oh yes, it costs old guys like me just $2:00 to get in. As an added attraction, LCRA has built a Zip Line on the furthest end of the park for those brave souls that need a bigger thrill than just hiking.
I went through my usual process of changing clothes and outfitting myself with my camera bag and camera belts and grabbing my walking poles, headed for the Office to pay my $2:00. The very pleasant young lady behind the counter informed me that due to recent rains, all of the river trails were closed. I thanked her for the information and taking a look at the map, chose to walk Bobcat Ridge which is a very pleasant walk. Some of the trails were a bit muddy but nothing I couldn’t handle. Bobcat Ridge ends at Riverside and this is also where the trails were barricaded off. if you can call yellow tape a barricade, to inform hikers that it was off limits to go down to the river. I met a young fellow sitting on the bench that was located at the trails intersection and we struck up a conversation. He said that he was trying to get into better shape which is why he was out there although he was sitting and resting when I spoke with him. We chatted a bit more and then I went on my way heading up Valley View which as the name suggests, does have some very nice views of the opposite valley. I took a few pictures and then headed up Ridge which brought me back from where I started. Around the building and dormitory area, the gardens are very well kept and there was an abundance of flowers just begging to have their pictures taken.
All in all, it was a very pleasant afternoon. The weather was bright and cheerful and it was not too hot. I managed to cover 5.5 miles and the old body creaked a bit towards the end. It is so exhilarating to get out and commune with Nature and well worth all of the aches and pains.
The outgoing President, Jeannie Ferrier on the left with the incoming President Barb Lenhardt
Another month, another meeting of the Austin Pond Society held at the usual place, the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin, Texas. As usual, we were treated to a meal provided by our Hospitality person, Steven. He is one of those who is giving up his volunteer position at the end of the year and we thank him for his contributions to the cause. Tonight, his offerings were corn dogs with deserts provided by the members. As I am not into corn dogs, I made do with several cookies to satisfy my sweet tooth.
Due to the bad weather, our numbers were down by quite a bit and I counted only 22 people in attendance. We started off with Barb introducing our speaker, Alex Rabadan, a local pond builder whose company is named Oasis Water Features and Landscaping. He held a question and answer session which kept everyone occupied for 30 minutes or so.
Alex Rabadan, Oasis Water Features and Landscaping.
This was followed by Steven Monfrini, acting in the absence of the chairperson Nancy Reinert and as one of the committee members, to announce the new Board members for 2019. All the positions were filled and required a vote from the Membership to appoint them which passed without dissent. To review the new Board who will take office January 1st, 2019, use this link.
This was the only major piece of business for this evening and with a little more discussion about other minor items, the meeting came to a close.
The next meeting to be held on November 19 at the same location, will be our Christmas End of the Year Party. Blue Santa will again be in attendance so we are asking all of our members to bring a small gift preferably in the 12-14 year age bracket for the kids in Austin who do not receive much on Christmas morning. The theme this year will be Mexican and the food will also reflect the theme. Members can still bring along desserts or their contribution to the Mexican main meal. We are hoping for a Mariachi Band from one of the local high schools but that is not yet confirmed. Keep looking for more on this and we hope to see you there.
This will be the last meeting for the year as we do not meet in December.
Today is Saturday.. I think! One day is pretty much the same as the next at this stage of my life. I no longer look forward to the weekends as they are pretty much the same as any other day except there are more people out and about and any special events are usually held on the weekend.
Used to be, many years ago, that every weekend for me was taken up with soccer, football to the rest of the world. I was either coaching one of the several Youth teams assigned to me or was actively playing myself on a couple of different teams. Even in the summer, things didn’t change very much except the Youth teams were off and we older people didn’t run anywhere near as hard or as long and we drank a lot of beer.
Nowadays, when I get up, the first thing I have to remind myself is what day it is. Once I have that firmly fixed in my mind, I check the calendar on my computer to see if I have anything special lined up that I need to do like a trip to the Physiotherapist for my aching shoulder or my Doctor for a geriatric check up. If I didn’t keep track of things on my computer, I would miss half of the appointments at which my presence is expected. Apart from any benefits those visits do provide, I see myself as a piggy bank for all of the Doctors, Dentists and such that I seem to need in my old age. Thank goodness that I had the foresight and was lucky enough to work at the University of Texas at Austin for 22 years prior to my retirement that resulted in a pension and excellent health care.
After I have figured out what day it is and what important things I need to do, I usually fill the rest of my day on several other and no less important things like checking the ponds and the health and welfare of the couple of hundred fish that reside in them. There is usually something that needs my attention like a filter or a pump or maybe an improvement on something that I felt needed working on. I should state here that I don’t do gardening. At least not in the accepted sense. Of course I take care of the ponds and I do mow the outside strip alongside the road every couple of months and the area that grows wild at the very bottom of the lot as it is really a dry creek and only floods when we get the odd gullywasher. Other than that, all of the plantings not counting those in and around the ponds are all native vegetation that I allow to run wild except in the several walkways which I keep trimmed for ease of access.
I also like to hike a lot except the weather has been so bloody hot that it made more sense to sit inside rather than to bake in the 100 degree heat. At least, I have that to look forward to and as I only occasionally hike on weekends, I can hike any other day of the week to avoid the crowds.
So you see, that even though the weekends are relatively unimportant and I never know what day it is when I wake up, there is always plenty to do to keep me occupied and being a creature of habit, nothing much changes from day to day. One of my habits is to go grocery shopping later in the day and at the same time, treat myself to a Grande Non Fat Decaf Latte from Starbucks. This is my one serious vice as it happens every day and is not cheap when totalled up for the year at $4:38 a cup. Still, the way I see it, everyone is entitled to one vice as long as it is not harmful to oneself or others. It could be worse as I could also smoke and drink but I have never smoked because of my athletic prowess and it has been 10 years since I have had any alcoholic drinks.
Lets see now, it is almost 4:00 o’clock and now it is raining again, almost time for that Latte. So goes another day in my life…
With the temperatures finally cooling down here in my part of Texas, you would think that I would be chomping at the bit to get out on the trails or outside in the garden. After all, the 100 degree heat lasted almost 3 months of which, I spent a great deal of time indoors in the air conditioning, only venturing out when the larder got low and needed restocking. I haven’t been out on the trails since my last hike at McKinney Roughs way back on June 8, 2018 and have only done enough in the yard and ponds to keep things running with the very occasional trimming to keep the paths clear.
Somehow though, I have gotten used to the lazy life of sitting around and even though the high temperature is only around 90 degrees on the hot days and getting cooler all of the time, I still find myself sitting in front of my computer looking out of the window at the yard instead of going out and getting stuck into all of the work that needs to be done. I suppose I can blame some of that on my increasing years but if I want to live for a few more of them, I need to bite the bullet and just go and get after it. I do have the excuse that my shoulder is sore, the one that I managed to wrench when I was loading the coins into the truck and I am going to Physical Therapy for it. I also joined a new gym just a couple of miles up the road from me but I am using the the same wrenched shoulder as an excuse for not working out. That’s even worse as the gym as you can imagine, has a brand new, state of the art cooling system.
What will it take for me to get of my arse, which, if I am not careful will start to grow to a much larger size unless I can convince my brain that I need the exercise. In truth, it is a mental problem more than a physical one as I feel fit enough. On the positive side, I know that I will overcome my mind and get outside and do what I do best and that is hard work as I have all of my life. As the temperature cools down even more, I will start working out and going on that hike? Honest, I will…
Such are the quandaries that I find myself in at this time of my life and what the Texas heat can do to a man…
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